Bill Would Change Allocation of Homeland Security Money

HOUSTON (AP) - Texas lawmakers and officials said Thursday the state is not getting its fair share of federal funding to guard against terrorist attacks and they hope proposed legislation will fix that.

U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, said the federal government has not met its obligations to protect Texas and other states that are vulnerable to terrorism.

At a news conference at the Port of Houston, Cornyn outlined his plans to introduce legislation that will change the way homeland security funds are distributed. He cited the port as an example of a facility that is being underfunded through the current system.

While such funding is currently distributed fairly evenly among states, Cornyn's proposal would allocate homeland security funds by considering the level of threat each state faces, the vulnerability of certain facilities - like the Port of Houston - and the consequences of an attack.

"The consequences of a successful terrorist attack on the Port of Houston are astronomical. It would affect a body blow to the economy of the United States. It would put a lot of people out of work and it would threaten our national security," Cornyn said.

U.S. Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Austin, said Texas ranks last in terms of homeland security dollars per capita. McCaul said Wyoming gets $38 per person while Texas receive $5 per person.

"Texas deserves more funding to protect itself," he said.

Cornyn's proposed legislation is guided by the Sept. 11 commission's recommendations that homeland security assistance should be based on an assessment of risks and vulnerabilities.

"If you think gasoline prices are high now, just wait for some disruption of the petrochemicals and gasoline and jet fuel that is transported in and around the Port of Houston," Cornyn said.

The Port of Houston, stretching along half of the 50-mile Houston Ship Channel, helps service a $15 billion petrochemical complex, the nation's largest.

Since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the Port of Houston has received $16.7 million in federal port security grants. But Cornyn said that is not enough.

Jim Edmonds, chairman of the Port of Houston Authority Commission, said he welcomed Cornyn's legislation.

"This approach goes a long way to getting the dollars that we need," he said.